I haven’t been one to write much for training advice/tips on my website, but with race season already here or coming up soon for many of you, I thought I would change that. I’ve played around with different training methods and taken my half marathon time from 1:24-1:12 over the past 5 years. A couple of years ago I had reached a plateau and couldn’t seem to break the 1:14 mark for my half marathons, having a string of results anywhere from 1:14-1:16. I was consistent but wasn’t really improving. Since that time not long ago I have been able to run new bests at every race going as low as 1:12 and soon, hopefully much faster. I’ve been able to do that on only 40 – 50 km/week (with swimming and cycling) by making a few small changes to my training. If you are competitive in running, 40 – 50 km/week would be an incredibly low volume week. I’ve discovered I’ve been able to improve drastically only doing 3 harder key sessions a week. Sometimes, usually in the weeks leading into a race I will add some extra easy runs and bumping my weekly run mileage up to 60 – 70 km. When I go for an easy run, it is truly aerobic and yes, sometimes it’s hard to hold back, especially if I feel great, but I always remember to save it for the hard workouts- and they should be hard! Since becoming stale in my running a couple years ago, I’ve been able to improve drastically on basically 1 km and 3 km repeats. I have not run a hard interval over 3 km in over 2 years and when I start training for Ironman (a full marathon) later this year, I doubt it will increase to any intervals over 5 km. Near the end of this post I’ll give an example of a run workout I do weekly in the month leading up to a race. It has been my bread and butter workout and progresses through the weeks from kind-of-hard to very hard and is very easy to track your run fitness.
Today I want to write about run training, specifically, not running easy enough on easy days and not running hard enough on hard days. I’ve witnessed and ran with many people who have been the same speed for years and over time their easy and hard run paces have blended themselves into this grey area that has resulted in them training at the same speed all the time and usually getting the same results time after time on race day. I’ve gone on easy runs with people who are trying to break 3 hours in the marathon or 1:20 in the half marathon and been shocked at how fast they are running their easy pace. Even their warm up pace is faster than I would ever run for an easy run. When the hard run session comes, they end up running barely faster than they did for their easy run, resulting in them not getting the proper training adaptation they should have and ultimately, not racing to their potential.
Another mistake I see all the time is people doing hard run intervals that are way too long. I see people going out for hard runs and doing intervals that are anywhere from 20-60 minutes in length and resulting in them usually just at or usually slower than their goal race pace. I’m not saying intervals these length never have their place, but when you are always running at or just below your race pace, how do you expect to actually get faster? People can sometimes see small gains doing this, but eventually you are going to plateau and become stale. Like I said earlier, I haven’t done a hard interval over 3 km (about 10 minutes for me) in length over the past 2 years. Here is the 3 km session I have used countless times, especially in the past year, to continue to build my run fitness and get me ready for race day.
4-6 weeks out from race day (usually a half marathon or half Ironman for me). Until I get to 3 weeks out from race day, these are usually 2 km intervals, not 3 km.
3 x 2 km descending efforts with 1 km rest in between.
2 km @ medium effort
1 km easy
2 km @ medium/hard effort
1 km easy
2 km @ hard/very hard effort
This workout eventually gets much harder and progresses to this (see below) over the course of a month. I usually like to do this workout 1 week out from race day. It’s a hard session but if I can nail the intervals and feel good, then I know my body is itching to go fast on race day.
3 x 3 km all hard/very hard efforts with 500 m rest between.
Remember, this is my longest hard interval day I do and when it progresses to the longest and hardest session, it’s still only 9 km worth of hard running which only takes me about 30 minutes to do. You don’t need to be running these long 30+ minute intervals to be able to run fast on race day. I could go on and on about running workouts, paces, etc, but I don’t want to bore you or give you information overload. If I could leave you with one piece of overall running advice related to this post it would be: Increase your time gap between your easy and hard run paces in training. Make your easy runs easier and make your hard runs harder. Maybe even try substituting those long interval sets on your hard days with km repeats, mile repeats or give my 3 km workout a shot. You can vary the effort levels and rest times between any workout, making the options limitless and hopefully always creating the right adaptation your body needs in training to grow and get faster. I hope this was helpful and if you have any questions feel free to fill out the form below and ask me.